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Can Spirituality Lead to World-Class Design?

October 13, 2014 — by Gino Beltran

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[This post was contributed by Patrick Jackson, a designer previously with Visioneering Studios.]

The World Architecture Festival was held in Singapore from October 1-3, 2014.  In this expansive exhibit, some of the most remarkable architecture created in the last year were recognized in the categories of sports, residential, transport, religion, civic and community, office and more.

The ultimate winner of the festival for “World Building of the Year” (yes, there is such an award), was a beautifully-elegant chapel in Vietnam on the outskirts of Hochiminh. This structure, “The Chapel”, was created by a21studiosection_15.

Planes of metal sheets and steel frames establish the main space of the structure that opens under a canopy of painted white corrugated roof that spills into the walls. Roof support of the building is created by a tree shaped steel column with steel bars that branch out while alleviating obstructions on the open ground plane. Colorful translucent panels drip from the roof as book-ends and along the ridge of the roof, paying homage to the youthful patrons that commonly inhabit the space.

A few lessons of holistic design, humility, and the inherent connection to our spirituality can be taken from this enchanting “World Building of the Year”.

Faith-based spaces have always been and will always be crucial to the composition of how we move about our lives. “Be strong and courageous. Do not be afraid; do not be discouraged, for the Lord your God will be with you wherever you go.” Joshua 1:9

Due to a financial crisis occurring in this region, the area was lacking in communal spaces where the youth could gather, bond, create, celebrate, be protected, and simply be. Not coincidentally, a place whose heart is based on the worship of our Creator, has become this place that breathes life into the hearts of the people in Singapore.  Here art galleries stimulate creative exploration, a shared afternoon tea rekindles a nostalgic memory, or two lovers can be wed in a grand celebration. The spiritual is the normal and the normal is spiritual.

Quality in design, space and life does not come only from the grandiose and opulent things. “Clothe yourselves, all of you, with humility toward one another, for “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” 1 Peter 5:5

The design team saved costs by using materials that were a surplus from the previous project. By using readily available steel and metal, the construction process was shortened with available material and ease of construction. The structure is essentially a single space of pure white where accent materials of varying color, texture, and transparency are utilized minimally but in powerful ways. Humility in the chapel’s design is used as a virtue in creating lasting impressions when and where it is necessary

 Humanity is tied to something greater beyond ourselves and the time we have on this earth. “God blesses those who realize their need for him, for the Kingdom of Heaven is given to them.” Matthew 5:3

skylight This chapel has a role in feeding our spirit, reminding us of our Creator and the role we have in that interplay of being caught up in the story of something greater. That story, and that draw, is a captivating one that pulls like shores on tides, and will not be something that we can ignore in how we act, speak, worship, and live in the infinite spaces we move about.